The two main classes of materials that we are investigating in cell studies, i.e. the very hydrophobic fluoropolymer and the very hydrophilic hydrogel, are, based on their wettability, not ideal to support cell growth; cells (e.g. fibroblasts) usually prefer materials with intermediate wettability. Indeed, on flat surfaces of the two materials cells hardly adhere and spread very little. However, topographic, “2.5D” patterns and 3D structures invoke marked cellular responses: cells align along micrometer grooves and spread on top of micrometer pillar structures. This behavior is explained in terms of ‘contact guidance’.

Cellular response to biointerfaces

Related publications:

  • Fang Ren, Cigdem Yesildag, Zhenfang Zhang, Marga C. Lensen “Functional PEG-Hydrogels Convey Gold Nanoparticles from Silicon and Aid Cell Adhesion onto the Nanocomposites” Chem. Mater., 2017, 29(5): 2008-2015. DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.6b03548

  • Gonzalo de Vicente and Marga C. Lensen* "Topographically and elastically micropatterned PEG-based hydrogels to control cell adhesion and migration" European Polymer Journal, 2016, 78: 290-301. DOI: 10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2016.03.020

  • Christine Strehmel, Heidi Perez-Hernandez, Zhenfang Zhang, Axel Löbus, Andrés F. Lasagni and Marga C. Lensen* "Geometric Control of Cell Alignment and Spreading within the Confinement of Anti-Adhesive Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Microstructures on Laser-Patterned Surfaces" ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng., 2015, 1(9): 747-752. DOI: 10.1021/ab5001657

  • Changzhu Wu, Christine Strehmel, Katharina Achazi, Leonardo Chiappisi, Jens Dernedde, Marga C. Lensen, Michael Gradzielski, Marion B. Ansorge-Schumacher, and Rainer Haag* "Enzymatically Crosslinked Hyperbranched Polyglycerol Hydrogels as Scaffolds for Living Cells" Biomacromolecules, 2014, 15(11): 3881-3890. DOI: 10.1021/bm500705x

  • V. A. Schulte, D. F. Alves, P. P. Dalton, M. Moeller, M. C. Lensen* and P. Mela* "Micro-Engineered PEG Hydrogels: 3D Scaffolds for Guided Cell Growth" Macromolecular Bioscience, 2013, 13(5): 562–572. DOI: 10.1002/mabi.201200376

  • Christine Strehmel, Zhenfang Zhang, Nadine Strehmel and Marga C. Lensen* "Cell phenotypic changes of mouse connective tissue fibroblasts (L-929) to poly(ethylene glycol)-based gels" Biomaterials Science (on invitation); 2013, 1: 850-859. DOI: 10.1039/c3bm60055f

  • Vera A. Schulte, Mar Diez, Martin Möller, Marga C. Lensen* "Topography induced cell adhesion to Acr-sP(EO-stat-PO) hydrogels: the role of protein adsorption" Macromolecular Bioscience, 2011, 11(10): 1378–1386. DOI: 10.1002/mabi.201100087

  • Mar Diez, Vera A. Schulte, Filippo Stefanoni, Carlo F. Natale, Francesco Mollica, Claudia M. Cesa, Jingyu Chen, Martin Möller, Paolo A. Netti, Maurizio Ventre and Marga C. Lensen* "Molding Micropatterns of Elasticity on PEG-based Hydrogels to Control Cell Adhesion and Migration" Advanced Engineering Materials, 2011, 13(10): B395–B404. DOI: 10.1002/adem.201080122


  • V. A. Schulte, M. Díez, Y. Hu, M. Möller and M. C. Lensen* "Combined Influence of Substrate Stiffness and Surface Topography on the Antiadhesive Properties of Acr-sP(EO-stat-PO) hydrogels" Biomacromolecules, 2010, 11(12): 3375–3383. DOI: 10.1021/bm100881y

  • V. A. Schulte, M. Díez, M. Möller and M. C. Lensen* "Surface Topography Induces Fibroblast Adhesion on Intrinsically Non-adhesive Poly(ethylene glycol) Substrates" Biomacromolecules, 2009, 10(10): 2795-2801. DOI: 10.1021/bm900631s


  • Marga C. Lensen,* Vera A. Schulte, Jochen Salber, Mar Diez, Fabian R. Menges, Martin Möller "Cellular responses to novel, micro-patterned biomaterials" Pure Appl. Chem., 2008, 80(11): 2479–2487. DOI: 10.1351/pac200880112479

We are investigating why the cells like to adhere to certain (nano and micro) topography and take the initial protein adsorption into consideration. We are employing several staining methods (based on antibodies) to visualize which proteins are accumulated on which parts of the surface structures.


Besides the adsorption of proteins present in the cell culture medium, we are also interested to find out which proteins are produced by the cells; in response to the surface pattern. Thus, we perform real-time PCR to quantify the extra-cellular matrix (ECM) production.


We have recognized a strong dependence of the cell adhesion and spreading on the elasticity of the substrate. We are now systematically studying this effect; also considering the phenomenon of ‘durotaxis’.


Finally, we are also interested in the study of the influence of the different substrate properties (topography, elasticity and chemistry) on the migratory behavior of the cells.

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